Man Booker prize backtracks on ‘China’ notation

Staff writer, with AFP

Fri, Apr 06, 2018 - Page 3

The Man Booker International Prize has reversed a move to change Taiwanese author Wu Ming-yi’s (吳明益) nationality to “Taiwan, China,” after criticism that it had bowed to pressure from Beijing.

The English translation of Wu’s novel The Stolen Bicycle (單車失竊記) is among the 13 books longlisted for the prize, and Wu protested on Thursday last week after his nationality on the Man Booker Web site was revised from “Taiwan” to “Taiwan, China.”

The Booker Prize Foundation said the change had been prompted by a complaint from the Chinese embassy in London.

However, the foundation on Wednesday said that it had decided to change Wu’s listing back to “Taiwan” after consulting interested parties and seeking advice on the appropriate terminology from the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

“The country/territory of longlisted authors and translators will appear, and Wu Ming-yi will be listed as ‘Taiwan,’” the foundation said in a statement.

“The prize is not about defining nationality; all global citizens are eligible, provided they are published in translation in the UK,” it added.

“It is the country/territory of origin rather than nationality. Taiwan is officially designated a territory rather than a country by the FCO,” a spokesperson for the prize added.

The foundation has notified the Chinese embassy, but did not consult with them, the foundation said.

Wu posted on Facebook late on Wednesday night about the change.

“I don’t believe this is a response to my will, but to the will of literature. This means the Man Booker prize has affirmed that the will of literature is based on honesty and freedom,” a translation of his comments read. “My work comes from cultures all over the world, but it relies entirely on Taiwan, germinating from this piece of land, growing and evolving ... to abandon this land, this name, my work would have no basis.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei thanked the foundation on Wednesday for the reversal and criticized Beijing.

“China is putting pressure on Taiwan’s international space on all fronts and at all times, both in official and civil situations,” it said.

The Man Booker International shortlist is to be announced on Thursday next week and the winner on May 22.

In related news, Wu’s book, The Magician on the Bridge (天橋上的魔術師) has been nominated for the second Emile Guimet Prize for Asian Literature, an award offered by the Guimet Museum of Asian Art in Paris, France.

Wu on Wednesday thanked his French translator, Gwennael Gaffric, on Facebook, saying Gaffric was an important promoter of Taiwanese literature among French readers.

The Magician on the Bridge tells the story of a man reminiscing about a magician he used to watch perform as a child.

The five other nominees for the Guimet award are Meena Kandasamy of India, Hwang Sok-yong of South Korea, Nashiki Kaho of Japan, A Yi (阿乙) of China, and Omar Shahid Hamid of Pakistan.

The winner is scheduled to be announced in early June.

Emile Guimet was a wealthy 19th century French industrialist and traveler who bought extensively during trips to Egypt, India, Japan and China, and his collection formed the basis for the museum that he founded in 1879.

Additional reporting by The Guardian